A couple days ago I bumped into a previous international student in front of my office. After exchanging pleasantries, my next question startled her, “how much longer do you have before graduation and how are you liking your study abroad so far?” It must have been a sensitive issue based on her squeamish hesitation.
Sighing with exhaustion, she admitted to having another two years of college before returning to her home country. She described that she was enjoying her time in America but that it was a challenge coping with the academic and social adjustments. “I have a friend now who helps me practice speak English. There aren’t any school services that I know of to practice speaking English and American students don’t have time to help.”
I then asked if she had made many American friends. “Not really. Americans pretty much keep to themselves. It would be nice to connect with a group of friends who were patient with me. It would also be helpful if they corrected my language skills instead of letting my misunderstandings pass by. How are my communication skills going to improve if I don’t know when I’m saying something wrong?”
Of course I offered to help and reminded her that my office door (and email) were always open but this topic begs the question: “Are colleges and universities providing sufficient support services for international students and can cultural adjustment be made fun, educational, and affordable?”
I think so but it presupposes that a new investment is made in this student body and new campus services. As globalization continues to reshape higher education, we’ll all feel the impact of a new international society. Employers are hiring culturally competent applicants and educational leaders are responsible for fostering those cultural competencies. In order to generate a diverse, internationally prepared workforce, we must first address how we introduce cultural sensitivities and facilitate cross-cultural adaptation. What international student support services do you use, do you need, or would recommend trying?